Contemporary · YA

The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis

siOlivia doesn’t believe in psychics. But the summer before her senior year of high school, she meets one in an elevator.
   This summer will be pivotal, the psychic warns. Please remember—all your choices are connected.
   Olivia loves her life in Silverlake, Los Angeles, but lately, something’s been missing. And after getting this strange advice, her world begins to change. A new job leads Olivia to a gorgeous, mysterious boy named Theo. And as Olivia cooks the recipes from a vintage cookbook she stumbles upon, she begins to wonder if the mother she’s never known might be the secret ingredient she’s been lacking.
   But sometimes the things we search for are the things we’ve had all along.

Source:  ARC via Random House/Delcorte

Story Breakdown:

Olivia is just a normal teen trying to make it day-to-day.  Then during the summer before her senior year things hit the fan.  She’s unsure of what to do to prepare for her future, still thinking about ‘What if?’ with a former potential flame, her dad’s restaurant seems to be going under, and she’s been slowing thinking more and more about her birth mother.  Over the course of the summer and guided by the strange advise of a psychic, she uncovers information that could be helpful not only in locating her mother but help push her into her own.

Character Highlights:

Olivia –  IMO,  a great character.  I really enjoyed her cooking in the book; it’s a skill that I haven’t really worked on and I love to read about all the different dishes.  Overall she seems really well-balanced and even though she is a teen didn’t come off at all entitled.  She worked and helped her family when she could which is nice to see in a YA book.

Theo – As far as Theo is concerned I felt he wasn’t really necessary to the story for me.  We don’t learn much about his time away and to me that made all the difference because I didn’t feel like I could connect with him.  He wasn’t a horrible character, but he just wasn’t memorable for me.

the Dads – Bell and Enrique, Olivia and Jeremy’s fathers seem to be great people.  I would have liked to see a bit more interaction between Olivia and her fathers since it seemed every time we saw them together they were just dealing with another problem or trying to not reveal a secret.

Overall Thoughts:

I loved that Olivia had a non-traditional family, something that is becoming more common place in society and therefore I felt the story was more relatable to a broader crowd.  There were some areas of the story (including Theo) that I felt weren’t really required and if they would have been missing wouldn’t have taken away from the overall feeling I got from the book but were not in any way a bad addition to the story.

I felt that even though this book deals with somewhat more serious issues there was still a great balance of the light-heartedness so many contemporaries have which I found surprising, especially coming from a male author.  I 100% mean that as a compliment because I have a harder time connecting with any book written by a male author so for man to not only write YA, but a contemporary in a female POV is a huge feat and I think Mr. Lewis did a great job.


One thought on “The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis

  1. Sounds like a good one… I really like when there are non-traditional families. Not just two moms or two dads, but maybe a grandmother or an aunt or uncle… I always feel like it changes the dynamics of the story!

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